Variationist Research Methods and the Analysis of Second Language Data in the Study Abroad Context

Authored by: Kimberly L. Geeslin , Jordan Garrett

The Routledge Handbook of Study Abroad Research and Practice

Print publication date:  June  2018
Online publication date:  June  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138192393
eBook ISBN: 9781315639970
Adobe ISBN:


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Language acquisition is a process through which theoretical perspectives on linguistic knowledge, specifically the form this knowledge takes and how it changes over time, can be profitably explored. With adult second language (L2) learners, we are further able to examine how two linguistic systems are simultaneously developed, stored, and used, and the degree to which each influences the other. Any theoretical approach employed to explore the role of study abroad (SA) in the process of the acquisition of L2 knowledge must account for these issues (Firth & Wagner, 2007; Regan, Howard, & Lemée, 2009; Sanz, 2014). As a group, several so-called usage-based approaches to language (Bybee, 2010; Ellis & Larsen-Freeman, 2009; Tomasello, 2009) afford a central role to patterns in actual language, as it is used in real-life texts and interactions, in shaping linguistic knowledge and the paths of acquisition and language change. Additionally, usage-based accounts, as opposed to generative accounts/approaches, allow a clear role for nonlinguistic information, such as the characteristics of individual speakers or the context of interaction, to influence patterns of language use. Although to varying degrees of exclusion, these approaches also recognize the importance of frequency, either the frequency of a given form or lexical item, or the frequency with which certain elements appear together, in shaping native and non-native grammars (Beckner et al., 2009; Bybee, 2010; Tomasello, 2009). These characteristics make such approaches especially well suited to exploring the role of context, in this case, SA, as the frequencies of different collocations and linguistic cues to which a learner is exposed can vary both quantitatively and qualitatively according to context.

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